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Has Digital’s Live Streaming Moment Finally Arrived?

Twitter announced at the end of March 2017 that it would soon let advertisers buy live video campaigns associated with its popular live streaming service, Periscope. The move, which should give advertisers a new tool to associate themselves with popular live moments like fashion shows and sporting events, is a symbol of a growing interest in live content from companies like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and beyond. Live ads made a comeback in the 2017 Super Bowl, and live TV broadcasts of big events are a key differentiator for TV networks as they seek to court advertisers. Is advertising during digital live streams ready for prime time? Here are some key themes for advertisers to consider as they evaluate this growing format:

Balancing mass reach with targeting
Like much of the debate that compares video against traditional TV, advertisers seem to be torn between two objectives. On one hand are the highly granular targeting capabilities of digital ad formats, which can get extremely precise in reaching specific consumer groups. On the other is the mass reach of TV, which has always attracted some of the ad world’s biggest viewing audiences. The same question hangs over live streaming products. While behind-the-scenes video streams from major events could be a big draw, there are still a lot of questions to answer about whether or not these highly personal digital broadcasts will have the wide appeal to bring large audiences.

Live streaming still lags TV in terms of “professional content
The concern for advertisers considering live streaming ad buys is that it’s hard to tell what they might get. While there’s something to be said for the authenticity of “in the moment” live videos like the famous “Chewbacca Mom,” it can be difficult for advertisers to relinquish control in order to gain the benefits of this type of spontaneous content that runs the risk of being inappropriate for some audiences.

Live stream publishers need to settle on the best ad experience for viewers
Another lingering question for those considering a live stream buy: when is the best time to insert an ad? While “pre-roll” ad units may seem like the best fit for this digital format, many publishers are increasingly pushing for “mid-roll” units that are inserted much like traditional TV commercial pods. For now at least, the debate is far from settled.

Live stream video has incredible potential. As consumer viewing habits increasingly shift online, live-focused digital streaming is poised to create powerful new opportunities for advertisers, one that could eventually come to resemble something akin to traditional TV. But these are early days. We’ll be keeping an eye on how advertisers respond as live stream video continues to evolve in the months ahead.